Budda Baker: Comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu are a blessing
Of the seven players the Arizona Cardinals added in the 2017 NFL Draft, arguably the most buzz is surrounding Budda Baker.
It makes sense.
The Cardinals made a trade to move up and grab the Washington safety, sending second, fourth and sixth-round picks in the 2017 — as well as a fourth-round choice in the 2018 draft — draft to the Chicago Bears for their second-round pick, No. 36 overall, as well as a seventh-round choice in the 2017 draft.
And if that was not enough, his style of play is such where it will be tough not to notice him. Also, he reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu, as Cardinals GM Steve Keim said not long after making the selection.
Baker is a 5-foot-10, 195-pound safety who played all over the field for Washington; Mathieu, on the other hand, is listed at 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds while filling a similar role for the Cardinals.
For Baker, being likened to the Honey Badger is a good thing.
“It’s definitely a blessing because I believe he’s one of the best safeties, if not the best safety, in the league,” he told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Tuesday morning. “Being able to be versatile, I feel like we need that to play in the NFL.
“Times have changed — it’s not that big, banger type of safety; you’ve got to be able to come down and play man, you’ve got to be able to blitz off the edge and do all different types of stuff.”
Baker said he was used in a variety of spots last season, seeing time at free safety as well as strong safety.
“Throughout the season I played a lot of nickel, just coming down, playing nickel, usually we were playing man on the slot or tight end, blitzing off the edge, all that type of stuff.”
Sounds like Mathieu, right?
While Baker likes the comparison, he made sure to point out that Mathieu is an established veteran and he is a rookie, so he only hopes to become as good a player as his new teammate.
That kind of attitude, at least in-part, made the Cardinals want him.
There was also the production, which is tough to ignore.
In three seasons with Washington, Baker amassed 200 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, five interceptions, 24 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. In 2016 alone, he tallied 70 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two picks.
On a defense that had four players drafted in 2017, he had a way of standing out.
When asked to describe his playing style, Baker used the adjectives “feisty” and “smart,” while adding he “has so much passion for the game, loves everything about the game.”
That includes every aspect of the game — including film study — as Baker’s goal is to perfect his craft and make good on his potential.
If he realizes it, the Cardinals will have themselves quite a player.
Baker said he knew the Cardinals liked him, but thought someone else, like Atlanta, Tennessee or Tampa Bay, were going to grab him.
“Just the way the draft process went down, they just didn’t get me,” he said. “And I’m glad.”
He is also a bit spiteful.
Baker admitted he will always remember the 35 players who were chosen before him, three of which — Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams and Jabrill Peppers — are safeties. While making sure to focus on the present, dropping to the second round has only added to the chip that he has always carried on his shoulder.
“Even since high school and college, I was never the big guy and all that type of stuff,” he said. “Yeah, people talked about me, but my lacks, or they said my lacks are my size and my height, but at the end of the day I’ve just kept working and just trying to prove everybody wrong.”